August 13, 2008

Sun Devils go live in goal line work

After a long scrimmage the day before, Arizona State got off to a sluggish start in practice Wednesday morning before a rare, mid-practice team pep talk from coach Dennis Erickson and a chance to work in the red zone improved the tempo.

"Obviously that was our first goal line practice. On the goal line it's got to be live or you don't do it," Erickson said. "Obviously you [media members] watched us play (last season). We've got to be better inside the two (yard line) on offense. Whether that's plan or whether that's just physical mentality down there, we've just got to become better. There's a lot of games we could have blown away early had we been better down there. It's huge for us to continue to improve offensively."

To that end, the Sun Devils used a four tight end formation with one of the tight ends, 6-foot-3, 257 pound senior Wes Evans, playing the role of fullback. Evans was used a lead blocker for Jarrell Woods and Ryan Bass with some positive results in the unveiling of the new look. Both running backs had multiple touchdowns, with Woods seemingly energized following a scrap with freshman cornerback Josh Jordan.

"We'll use Wes at the fullback and doing some different things," Erickson said. "We feel like we've studied that stuff quite a bit in the off-season and what we want to do down there. At times we'll be in four tight ends and one of them being the fullback. You're either going to smash mouth them and try to do that and believe in that kind of thing or spread them out or combination of both. We'd like to believe to start out we can just get physical and run the football on people."

Evans wasn't the only tight end to have an impact on the session, as Andrew Pettes made a nice catch and some key blocking, and Dan Knapp had two beautiful touchdown grabs, including an acrobatic play in which he dove and flipped while hauling in the pass from Danny Sullivan.

"He just made a catch that I thought he could make," Erickson said of Knapp's second touchdown. "He dove and caught it. Probably could have ran it down but he dove so maybe he's involved in theatrics. No, that was a great play, don't get me wrong. He's a good athlete, has good hands."

Between Pettes, Evans, Knapp, Stanley Malamala and Jovon Williams, the Sun Devils have a lot of versatility at the position and competition for roles is getting intense.

"That's a battle in there with those tight ends now," Erickson said. "An area that I thought could be a question mark is turning into a strength for us. Which again, as we look at it offensively, we didn't know how much two tight ends we'd be in but as things are going we may be in as much as we were a year ago."

Scrimmage Wrap

Erickson provided his thoughts on Tuesday's scrimmage, after watching tape of the workout yesterday afternoon:

"I thought that the offensive front did some awfully good things, that first group. As far as blocking the run and protecting. They gave us a chance to throw the football and do those kinds of things. They're making improvements and young players do. Young players aren't set in their ways. They're willing to learn and get better technique-wise. Unfortunately we're young, so we'll see improvement. I thought they did some awfully good things."

"I thought defensively we ran around. I thought our corners played pretty darn good. And our linebackers. Shelly Lyons is playing real well for us. Mike Nixon I thought played really good yesterday. James Brooks is getting better all the time. We're making improvements, that's the biggest thing. Guys are stepping up. There's some opportunities out there for some of these players. Hopefully as we get into this program over a period of time you don't want to stay hurt because you've got enough depth around that somebody's going to take your spot. Are we there? No. But we'd like to be."

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